Tips for writing a thank you note and when to write one

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Q Several of us in our office have high school or college students graduating this year. We had interesting conversations on handwritten thank you notes and we would appreciate your feedback.

  • Are handwritten thank you notes necessary if you thank the person when they give you the gift or card at the graduation ceremony or at the graduation party, if you open it in front of them? If you open it later?
  • Could a text message thanking the person for the gift suffice rather than sending a written thank you note? Or an email?
  • If you’re using a printed thank you card, how much do you really have to say in it? Is it correct or sufficient to simply say, “Thank you very much for the PERIOD of ________________________ (money or bracelet or briefcase)? Do you have to mention the amount of money given to you?
  • How quickly should a thank you note, text or email be sent? Or what is the window?
  • If the handwriting is really bad, can a typed note be inserted into a thank you card?

A. Thank you for your questions. I’ve had a lot of questions like these from other people lately and there seems to be a lot of variation in the answers. Here are my comments, which may seem old-fashioned to some, but have proven to be the most appreciated and appropriate.

  • Whether you open the graduation card or gift in front of the giver or later, and thank them verbally, a handwritten note should also be sent to that person.
  • Although a thank you text message or an email may be sent very soon after receiving the gift, a handwritten thank you note should also be sent to that person.
  • A handwritten note should say more than just “Thank you for the graduation gift.” It must refer to the gift. If the donation is in cash, it is not necessary to mention the amount, but it is entirely appropriate to mention how the money will be used. If the person you are writing to was present at the graduation ceremony or graduation party, it is also appropriate to thank them for coming. It could be the first sentence: “Dear ____________, thank you so much for coming to my graduation (or my graduation party). It made everything so much more special to have you there.

For instance:

“Dear Uncle Joe, Thank you so much for your generous graduation gift. I will be using the money to pay for some of my books for my first semester at (college name).

“Dear Grandma, thank you so much for the beautiful gold bracelet with my name engraved on it. It’s a very special gift and I’ll be thinking of you every time I wear it, which will be a lot.

  • A handwritten thank you note should be sent as soon as possible – 48 hours if possible, but at least within a week of receiving the gift.
  • Even if the person writing the thank you note has bad calligraphy; a bad calligraphy will be more appreciated and more appropriate than a typed note inserted in the thank you note.

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